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Help for Haiti or relief for slow sales?

January 19, 2010 | 10:32 am

Haiti37[1]

The news releases are stacking up, each one touting how another company is aiding relief in Haiti. The Wall Street Journal posted one of the first tallies, reporting that Lowe's pledged $1 million, Home Depot donated $100,000, and Wal-Mart offered $600,000 in relief. Proctor & Gamble sent PUR water purification powder packets, and Clorox plans to provide its disinfectant products and Glad trash bags for the cleanup. Furniture Today reported on Friday that IKEA Canada will donate $50,000 (Canadian) to the relief effort and will ask customers if they would like to make a $2 donation of their own at checkout.

Here in California, Heath Ceramics -- long involved in social causes -- donated 25% of all sales from Friday through Sunday to Architecture for Humanity, a nonprofit that provides design and construction services to communities in need and will be expanding its efforts in Haiti. We don't yet have the dollar figure, but it's a safe bet that 25% of all proceeds online and in Heath's Sausalito and Los Angeles showrooms will total more than the nominal bump in sales the company may have enjoyed. In other words, the company will give more than it gets.

Design Within Reach issued a news release urging its customers to donate to UNICEF. The company said it would match the first $25,000 in donations, and giving was not contingent on buying.

Meanwhile, the high-end stationery and gift boutique Soolip sent a news alert headlined "Help Us Help Haiti." The store said it was donating 5% of retail sales through Jan. 30, and the note ended with the simple demand: "Give." On Soolip's blog, the message came with a "Help Us Help Haiti" graphic linking to the boutique's main shopping page, where item No. 1 is a set of henna-printed file folders (three for $30). Though one could argue any donation is a good donation and plenty of companies are doing nothing, I suspect a 5% donation by a store selling $10 file folders won't sit well with most consumers.

-- Craig Nakano

Photo: A Haitian man holds his sleeping son during another night in a park in Port-au-Prince. Thousands of people are afraid to sleep in their homes, while others no longer have homes. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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